This Sunday is my third wedding anniversary. This Saturday night is the third anniversary of my first Mikvah immersion. I can’t speak for all brides, but I know that for me, wedding planning was a very stressful time. My Chosson (groom) and I lived in Tallahassee which is in northern Florida and were planning a wedding in Palm Beach which is in South Florida. Every two weeks we would either drive the six hours or I would fly in a little “puddle jumper” down for the weekend to make arrangements. A hall had to be selected, dresses chosen and altered for fit and modesty, flowers color-coordinated to match the dresses, invitations matched to the color theme – white or ecru paper? Ink – periwinkle, lavender or light blue???
These were of, course, all matters of unmatched importance with certain specifications to be met. The hall needed windows and a minimum of square footage, the dresses had to match the tuxedo vests which had to match #16-4031 in the Pantone universal color guide and that had to compliment the hydrangeas in the table bouquets which could only be a certain height so that the guests could see over them to converse with one another. The invitations, of course, had to also match and say just the right thing to thank G-d for bringing us together and our parents for paying for it. Even recounting it has me reaching for the chocolate chips to help calm me down.
All that stress, hours which compounded into days on the road or in the air for a few hours of miasmic memory clarified here and there with shining little points. Was it worth it? I’ll show you my album, you tell me. But those few hours were a wedding. The night before, I prepared for my marriage. I called ahead to the Mikvah and asked about their hours and told them I was a Kallah (bride). “Well,” the lady said, “This is a special situation. You’ll come after we close for everyone else; we want you to have the whole Mikvah to yourself.” My mother and I got there at midnight. I had already prepared, but the Mikvah lady, an energetic Israeli, eager to tell me her own story of Teshuva (return to observance) and marriage to a Chabad follower, showed me to the most lavish room anyway, pointing out the Jacuzzi tub and all the accoutrements I would need to comb and separate my waist-length curly hair (an act that took most of my preparation time), double check my nails and teeth, buff away any dead skin, and so on. Finally, I was ready.
The Mikvah lady led me in, checked my fingers and toes, checked my back for hairs that may have fallen out of my head, gave me a general once over and took my robe. Down the steps I went, into the pool. I loosened my body the way my Kallah teacher had shown me, took a breath, in I went. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the rush of warm water and hear the splash and bubbling. I came up.
“Kosher!” The Mikvah lady exclaimed excitedly. She put a washcloth over my head. I said the Brocha (blessing), careful to get every word perfect . “Amen!” Her enthusiasm strengthened me. And then. She started singing. “Siman Tov U’Mazel Tov! Mazel Tov U’ Siman Tov! I stood there, still immersed in the water…Should I sing, too “Yehei lanu, yehei lanu, U’l’kol Yisroel!” Still singing. Me, still immersed “Yehei lanu, yehei lanu, U’l’kol Yisroel!!!”
As awkward a moment as it was, I couldn’t help but smile as I stood there, silent, blushing, staring at the wall in front of me. Her joy was transcendent and as she finished singing and clapping, I immersed again twice more. When I came out, she helped me on with my robe and embraced me. “Mazel tov,” she said again.
It was an island in the sea of wedding preparation. A time to celebrate the holiness of the unity I was about to create and the one detail that would remain relevant for the rest of my married life. I have no more dress fittings or flowers to arrange, but, thank G-d, Taharas HaMishpocha is a constant in my life, even through pregnancy and breastfeeding, when I’m not visiting the Mikvah every month, my family is blessed with the purity of my last immersion. This weekend I will celebrate a holy and happy marriage and occasionally I’ll recall that blur of a day three years ago.